Why would you move away from New Zealand?
This is the one question I come across the most since moving back to Canada from the land of the long white cloud. If anyone has ever lived with itchy feet they’ll understand my need to move away from quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth. I also needed to expand my wine knowledge. You see New Zealand wine is my comfort zone. It’s where my love for the fermented grape juice started. Unfortunately when you live, eat, and breathe one specific country you sort of forget about the other 40 or so other wine producing ones in world. If you ask me about the differences between Central Pinot Noir and a Martinborough one, I’m your girl. Although I do have a larger base knowledge of the international game, it’s not as strong as NZ. So I made the decision to move and live, eat, and breathe other regions. Enter Ontario, stage left.
Part of Unit 1 in the Diploma program is knowing your local market. Although I was born and raised in raised Ontario, I have little to no knowledge of its market. Let’s just say when I left I was more rye and ginger and less let’s go wine tasting.
Which is exactly what I did when I decided to take a weekend off and visit my good friend in Toronto.
One of my appointments was at Stratus. I was luckily enough to have tried their Tannat at work. I’m sure most of you think Ontario Tannat isn’t a thing, well it is if you’re Stratus Winery in Niagara, Ontario. This wine was juicy and well balanced. Everything was working together in the glass and I was a fan
Upon arrival, the grandiose scale of the tasting room and winery is slightly overwhelming. That being said you can have the best of the best but if the wines don’t stack up.. well you don’t have sh*t do you.
First up was the 2012 Stratus Chardonnay
Lots happening on the nose with apples, butter, woodsy, and lemon curd. Similar flavours came through again on the palate but adding an element of buttered popcorn which ,if you know me, is definitely not a bad thing. Everything was working in unison acid, alcohol, and body. Can’t fault it, was a damn good glass of Chardonnay.
Charles Baker 2012 Picone Vineyard Riesling
You all know I’m a sucker for Riesling and this one was so good, I grabbed a bottle.
The nose was the typically delicious matchstick and lime zest with a hint of a cooked squash. The last note may be a little alarming but it worked. The lime zest and juice came back no the palate followed by a splashed of green apples. The acid was present but refreshing. Nice crisp finish
Stratus White 2010
This was one the wines i’ve been for warned about… but in a good way. I’ve recently re-stumbled upon white Bordeaux and am a fan. This Semillon (32%) and Sauvignon Blanc (30%)is reminiscent of the famous French Sem/Sauv blend but with a kick of Viognier (25%) and finally Chardonnay (13%) .It sounds like they just had wine leftover and decided to make something instead of waste it. That’s not the case. Every varietal was vinified individually and blended to make the Stratus White. The body of a Semillion, the aromatic fruit profile of a Viognier, the characteristics of a barrel fermented/malolactic Chardonnay, and the acid of a Sauvignon Blanc. It’s pretty wackadoddle but it works, and it works well.
Pineapple, lemon curd, marizipan, over-ripe bananas, floral notes of violets, and that was just the nose. That Semillon body and Sauvignon Blanc acidity were accompanied by Chardonnay’s almond and buttery notes. With a very interesting finish, at $44 it more then most would spend but it’s worth giving it go. You don’t often get wine journeys like this one.
Moving onto the red’s I was offered a side by side comparison of the 2006 and 2010 Stratus Red. The Bordeaux Meritage (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Gamay and Syrah). In most similar circumstances the older vintage usually wows. This wasn’t one of the those times. Although interesting with the age old tertiary flavours of cedar and tobacco. There was just less happening than the 2010. Apparently 2006 was a tough vintage for Niagara reds. On the flip side the 2010 had tannins, very grippy tannins but combine this with a strong acid structure and juicy red fruit. I enjoyed this wine on the day and I think I would enjoy it more with a juicy piece of red meat.
Stratus do different single varital reds. Since I enjoyed the juicy 2010 Tannat so much I was excited to see what the 2011 Petit Verdot had to offer. Hello tannins. This is a food wine, a piece of spicy cured meat or something grilled would go a long way. Besides tannins there was juicy raspberries, cedar, and a smokey game-yness. Single variety Petit Verdot doesn’t come around very often so I bought a bottle.
After going through the wines my kind host (I’m terrible with names) took me for a wee tour around where the magic happens. Their tricked out winemaking facility was like walking into a toys-r-us for wine geeks. The stand out for me was a 4 storey high natural elevator which allows the wine to flow without pumping into various vessels. This includes barrels which are on display in the open concept barrel room. My host casually mentioned that they only use the barrels twice. No big deal at $1,200 a pop.
Overall the initial grandiose feeling does not wear off and those who like a luxurious wine experience should definitely not overlook this winery. I felt like I was going to break things the entire time. Marble countertops, fancy glassware, and me are not friends but I do get along with well balanced, complex, and delicious wines. For that Stratus gets a giant tick of approval from me.